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Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, Marine Le Pen; Le Pen refusing the veil
Beirut

Le Pen refuses headscarf for meeting with Grand Mufti

Marine Le Pen refused to wear a headscarf for a meeting with the Grand Mufti in Beirut, which led to praise on social media from Christians.

Published: February 22, 2017, 9:00 am

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    The proposed meeting with the Grand Mufti, the most prominent Sunni Muslim cleric in the country, had to be scrapped at the last minute.

    Le Pen was scheduled to meet Sheikh Abdellatif Deriane, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, in his office in the capital on Tuesday. The Grand Mufti’s press office said that Le Pen had been informed beforehand of their requirement to appear with her head covered, Reuters reported.

    Upon her arrival, Le Pen was again asked to wear a headscarf. According to AFP, Le Pen was given the veil to cover her hair by the Mufti’s aides.

    But she refused, as she is not a Muslim. “You can pass on my respects to the Grand Mufti, but I will not cover myself up,” Le Pen responded. She then cancelled the encounter.

    She explained that during a meeting with Egypt’s Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, a prestigious Sunni title, in 2015, it was not required to wear a headscarf. “I met the Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar,” she told reporters. “The highest Sunni authority didn’t have this requirement, but it doesn’t matter.”

    She received praise for her decision on social media: “Well done! You shouldn’t mix politics and religion,” one person wrote on Twitter, as headscarves and other conspicuous religious symbols have been banned from French schools since 2004.

    Another said: “There are those who speak about women’s rights and there are those who actually defend them. Marine Le Pen,” another person wrote.

    The FN leader has been outspoken in her opposition to the Muslim headscarf and has stated that she would ban such religious symbols in public places.

    An aid to the Mufti expressed his dissatisfaction to CNN: “I personally greeted her at the door of the Edict House and wanted to hand her a white headscarf that was in my hand, she refused to take it,” Khaldoun Awas explained.

    “I urged her to put it on, she refused and said she would not put it on and walked out without attending the previously agreed upon meeting with the Mufti. The Edict House regrets such inappropriate behavior at such meetings.”

    Earlier, after talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Le Pen spoke out against French policy on Syria and told reporters that president Assad was the only choice as leader of the country.

    She flew to the Middle East as French police were ransacking her party headquarters as part of an “investigation into fake jobs”.

    Allegations that parliamentary assistants got fake jobs paid for out of EU funds, are purely political Le Pen says. The party’s vice-president Florian Philippot too dismissed the searches as a media stunt to influence the outcome of the election.

    He said: ”These are media-stunt searches on the day when Le Pen gets a two-point bounce in the polls. It’s always when the system is in panic that these so-called affairs come out.”

    Philippot also tweeted: “In Lebanon, Marine refuses to wear the veil. A beautiful message of freedom and emancipation sent to women in France and the world!”

    Opinion polls predict Le Pen, fierce critic of the European Union, is likely to get the highest score in the first round of voting.

    The French presidential candidate was in Lebanon as part of her election campaign ahead of the first round of voting in April. Le Pen, leader of the national-conservative political party and one of its main political forces, is leading the pack at this stage.

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